Refereed journal article or data article (A1)

Exposures during pregnancy and at birth are associated with the risk of offspring eating disorders

List of AuthorsOzsvar Judit, Gissler Mika, Lavebratt Catharina, Nilsson Ida AK


Publication year2023

JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders

Journal name in sourceThe International journal of eating disorders

Journal acronymInt J Eat Disord





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Eating disorders (ED) are severe psychiatric disorders, commonly debuting early. Aberrances in the intrauterine environment and at birth have been associated with risk of ED. Here, we explore if, and at what effect size, a variety of such exposures associate with offspring ED, that is, anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS).


This population-based cohort study, conducted from September 2021 to August 2023, used Finnish national registries of all live births in 1996–2014 (N = 1,097,753). Cox proportional hazards modeling was used to compare ED risk in exposed versus unexposed offspring, adjusting for potential confounders and performing sex-stratified analyses.


A total of 6614 offspring were diagnosed with an ED; 3668 AN, 666 BN, and 4248 EDNOS. Lower risk of offspring AN was seen with young mothers, continued smoking, and instrumental delivery, while higher risk was seen with older mothers, inflammatory disorders, prematurity, small for gestational age, and low Apgar. Offspring risk of BN was higher with continued smoking and prematurity, while lower with postmature birth. Offspring risk of EDNOS was lower with instrumental delivery, higher for older mothers, polycystic ovary syndrome, insulin-treated pregestational diabetes, antibacterial treatment, prematurity, and small for gestational age. Sex-specific associations were found.


Several prenatal and at birth exposures are associated with offspring ED; however, we cannot exclude confounding by maternal BMI. Nevertheless, several exposures selectively associate with risk of either AN, BN, or EDNOS, and some are sex-specific, emphasizing the importance of subtype- and sex-stratified analyses of ED.

Public Significance

We define environmental factors involved in the development of different ED, of importance as preventive measure, but also in order to aid in defining the molecular pathways involved and thus in the longer perspective contribute to the development of pharmacological treatment of ED.

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Last updated on 2023-27-09 at 12:43